Miami, Ricky Dimon
Rafael Nadal passed his first real test of the Sony Open Tennis tournament with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Milos Raonic during semifinal action on Thursday night. Nadal held his last nine service games and won 20 of 24 service points in the third set before advancing in two hours and 35 minutes.
Raonic had never taken a set off Nadal in four previous meetings and the underdog was going up against an opponent who had dropped a mere nine games in his first three Miami matches. Still, Raonic showed plenty of belief. The 6’5” Canadian saved all three of the break points he faced in the opening frame of play and clinched it when Nadal double-faulted down set point at 4-5.
From there, however, it was all Nadal. The top-ranked Spaniard surged to a 4-0 lead in the second set and earned the decisive break at 3-3 in the third.
“I was lucky at the beginning of the second set,” Nadal explained. “I started with a break and (that) was very important for me. I felt that I finished the match playing better. I think I started the match playing okay, playing well but not playing well (on) the break points.”
Next up for the No. 1 seed is Tomas Berdych, who got the best of Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-4, 7-6(3). Berdych fired 11 aces and battled back from a break down in each of the two sets as he prevailed in one hour and 45 minutes. Dolgopolov, an Indian Wells semifinalist, was doomed by 48 percent serving and just 35 percent of his second-serve points won.
Berdych is now 4-0 lifetime against Dolgopolov, but the story is a much different one against Nadal. The Czech trails the head-to-head series 17-3 and has lost 16 consecutive matches.
“I don’t even know the number, Berdych said, referring to his streak of futility with Nadal on the other side of the net “I stopped counting.”